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Life_in_the_city/Manhattan DatePosted:11/23/05

Homeless in NYC
By: Tracey A. Casseus

Homelessness is defined by Webster’s Dictionary, as having no home or permanent place of residence. Currently there are 32, 200 individuals in shelters in New York City according to the New York City Department of Homeless Services (NYDHS). But the number of those living on the street is unaccounted for and is believed to be even greater.

According to the NYDHS the average number of individuals in shelter each night in October 2005 was 32,094 and of that 12,641 were children.
As New Yorkers, it is a common occurrence to board the subway and hear a heartrending speech from a homeless person begging for a change to get a bite to eat for the day. It makes even the least sensitive of us wonder how is it that so many people are becoming homeless and what needs to be done to stop this trend.

There is no definite cause for homelessness; there are numerous reasons for why thousands of homeless people wind up on the street. Some people claim that public housing doesn’t do enough to house families.

“In New York City houses are expensive so I think unused land should be used to build homes for the homeless,” said Esther Nelson (17) from Brooklyn.

Substance abuse may be a cause as well, an estimated one-third of America's homeless have substance abuse problems whether it be alcoholism or drug abuse. Although some homeless people do have a job they do not make enough money for their labor to support and house themselves or their families. Other homeless people who don’t have a job chose the option of begging or panhandling, which is in many areas illegal. In 1988, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey banned panhandling in Metro subways.

“Some homeless people are lazy. They just don’t want to get up and go get a job,” said Nelson. But there are some who understand the plight of the homeless and how hard it must be to get a job. “I think its stupid when people say 'oh that bum should just get up and get a job' because c’mon, who's going to help a homeless person?” said Marina Bronivetskaya (17) from Brooklyn.

“Many people come to NYC with a dream, whether it be to get rich quick or become famous. However, most often these dreams aren't realized. Rather, they're shattered and many lives get broken, some loose touch with family and friends, loose money, and even their homes.”

Homelessness is a simple predicament to fall into and a difficult one to get out of. Approximately 16 % of single adults are chronic, or long-term, shelter residents, meaning they’ve spent at least two of the last four years in shelter according to the NYDHS. When someone doesn’t have a phone number, permanent address, or a place to change and wash their clothes and themselves, it can be very hard for the homeless to find or maintain jobs. So what is being done to help these people with dreams deferred?
Earlier this month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Governor George E. Pataki announced, a $1 billion pact to finance and develop 9,000 new units of supportive housing in New York City called New York/New York III agreement.

The agreement targets chronically homeless single adults from the street and shelter, single adults in State psychiatric facilities, young adults with mental illness, chronically homeless families, homeless people with substance abuse disorders, chronically homeless individuals with. HIV/AIDS, youth aging out of foster care.

Many believe that this is a good start, but still believe that New Yorkers can do more.
“Not to say that New Yorkers are heartless, because we know we aren't, but we are so busy and preoccupied with our businesses, our fast paced lives, that often we forget to give back to those less fortunate,” said Bronivetskaya. “Now, when I pass by a homeless person, my heart does break, just like most other people's but I figure that the little change in my pocket won't help much, or I automatically start judging the person with what society has taught me of most of them being drug addicts or whatever.”
Don’t be an idle citizen to this homeless epidemic; you can help.

HarlemLIVE's staff will be donating their time and effort on Thanksgiving Day to help feed the homeless at Metropolitan Baptist Church. To become involved in aiding the homeless this winter call HarlemLIVE at 212 222 4681 and ask how you can help.

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